Kansas Land Records

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This entry was originally written by Marsha Hoffman Rising, CG, FUGA, FASG and Mary Clement Douglass, CGRS for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Kansas Family History Research series.
History of Kansas
Kansas Vital Records
Census Records for Kansas
Background Sources for Kansas
Kansas Maps
Kansas Land Records
Kansas Probate Records
Kansas Court Records
Kansas Tax Records
Kansas Cemetery Records
Kansas Church Records
Kansas Military Records
Kansas Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Kansas Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Kansas County Resources
Map of Kansas


Kansas is a Public-Domain State.

Kansas was surveyed on the rectangular survey system and was first officially opened for white settlement in 1854. Some of the early patent books for Kansas counties have been microfilmed by and are available through the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City.

Kansas owes much of its growth to the passage and enactment of the Homestead Law, passed in 1862 and effective 1 January 1863. It offered “free” land to those who would live on and cultivate a tract. In order to make a claim, the individual had to (1) be twenty-one years old or head of a family, (2) be a United States citizen or have declared intention to become one, (3) not already own 320 acres of land, (4) not abandon land owned by him in the same state or territory, and (5) intend to use the homestead for himself and his family.

There were four classes of public lands opened for settlement. First, those owned by the federal government; second, those owned by institutions of higher learning; third, the common-school lands; and fourth, the railroad lands. The state was divided into nine land districts, and offices opened in twenty-five towns, including Larned (Pawnee County), Oberlin (Decatur County), Topeka (Shawnee County), Kirwin (Phillips County), Independence (Montgomery County), Concordia (Cloud County), Salina (Saline County), Wakeeney (Trego County), Wichita (Sedgwick County), and Cherokee Strip lands and Osage Indian trust lands. (See Socolofsky and Self, Historical Atlas of Kansas in Background Sources for Kansas.) Land was also sold through the railroad offices of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railway (headquarters at Parsons, Kansas), Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (headquarters in Topeka), and Kansas Division, Union Pacific Railroad (headquarters in Kansas City).

The Kansas State Historical Society has the Kansas tract books (on microfilm), plats, and tract maps, and the purchases from the Dodge City land office. They also have the land sales of the Santa Fe Railroad (mostly central Kansas) and the Kansas Town and Land Company (Rock Island Railroad), which sold land in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nebraska as well as in Kansas. National Archives—Central Plains Region has Bureau of Land Management records for the states of Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, 1840–1915.

After initial purchase from the federal government, land records are located at the county level in register of deeds office.

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